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Abuse Comes in Many Forms…and to Men Too

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Last year around this time, I wrote about Breast Cancer awareness, and how it’s not just something us ladies need to watch out for.

While not as prevalent, men do contract and die from breast cancer. In fact, only 19 percent of women who contract breast cancer die from complications of the disease, while breast cancer claims the lives of 27 percent of the men who contract it. So it’s really more important for men to do self breast exams, as crazy as that sounds.

This year, I think we should talk about something else men should be aware of that is just as serious. And not for the reasons you’d expect.

You see, as I mentioned last year, October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. And while the movement does generally focus on stopping violence against women, the fact is women are not the only victims, and male victims are far more likely to lose their lives.

When I was in high school, I dated this musician for a while. He played sax, and I think that’s what drew me to him. The only thing I love more than an electric guitar is a saxophone, and he could make it sing like no other high-schooler I’d met. By the end of the first week of concert band class, I was so wrapped up in the emotions coming out of his horn that he and the instrument had become one, and I had to have both.

Eventually, we broke up. He met another girl while he was at the water park, and decided he liked her better. And while I was heartbroken, we were best friends before we dated, so we made an effort to push aside our hurt feelings and rekindle the friendship.

By the end of the first month of his relationship with her, he had stopped calling me and wouldn’t go anywhere I was going to be unless people didn’t tell him I was going. I finally cornered him one day, and asked what was going on, sure I’d done nothing to cause it. Turned out I was right. His girlfriend was telling him who he could hang out with. And I wasn’t the only person she’d cut him off from. There were multiple others in our group he wasn’t supposed to associate with by her command.

When he finally broke up with her, he slowly started telling us how she gradually began manipulating every situation so that she was in total control, even going so far as to threaten suicide if she didn’t get her way. Everything was life or death. Either he loved her or he didn’t, and if he didn’t, she was going to do everything in her power to make his life hell.

Finding out what went on when they were alone completely stunned us, and it hurt to know that instead of confiding in his friends, he shouldered the weight alone to protect her. We were so glad he finally allowed us to help him, and felt like jerks because we didn’t see it. But more than that, we were all surprised he’d put up with something like that. He didn’t seem the type.

If you asked me to describe my friend, I’d say he was intelligent, strong, and caring. Before I found out what was going on in his relationship, if you asked me what I thought he’d do in a situation like that, I would have said that at worst, he’d just break it off, but more likely he’d try to get the girl some help. Which he did, eventually, but he just soldiered on far longer than you’d expect from someone like him. He really wasn’t the type to just put up with people treating him like that, which goes to show it can happen to anyone.

There are many other types of abuse. Abusers use a plethora of tactics to control their victims. And just about anything can be used as a form of abuse. I once knew a woman whose husband would withhold sex for long periods of time as punishment because she forgot to put a glass of water on the nightstand. Another woman I knew broke her husband’s nose because he took a stick of gum from her purse.

Unless you’re in a kinky relationship, and a punishment dynamic has been negotiated, your partner has no right to punish you. Even non-corporal punishment, like the silent treatment, can be a form of emotional abuse.

If your friend is withdrawing from the crowd, or seems afraid to cross their partner, there’s a chance there’s at least some emotional abuse going on. Find a chance to discuss it with them. Plan a day out, or something, and angle the conversation to their relationship. It IS your business. They are your friend. And they’d do the same for you.

If you or someone you know is currently in an abusive relationship, or has been in the past, find a victims services location near you here, or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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